LEXICO defines draw on as follows:

1 (draw on something) Use one's experience, talents, or skills as a resource.

Sue has a lot of past experience to draw on

2 (of a period of time) pass by and approach its end.

he remembered sitting in silence with his grandmother as evening drew on

3 (draw something on, draw on something) Put an item of clothing on.

he drew on his dressing gown

4 (draw on something) Suck smoke from a cigarette or pipe.

she drew heavily on her cigarette

Why is it that only in 1 can we use upon instead of on?

Sue has a lot of past experience to draw upon

*he remembered sitting in silence with his grandmother as evening drew upon

*he drew upon his dressing gown

*she drew heavily upon her cigarette

  • 2
    I, much to my shame, frequently draw upon cigarettes. Sep 7, 2021 at 7:16
  • @MichaelHarvey Are you sure that sounds fine to your ears? Note that "draw/drew upon a cigarette/cigarettes" return only a handful results.
    – listeneva
    Sep 7, 2021 at 8:03
  • Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Volume 84 May 1991 "The Practice of Speech after Laryngectomy" - From the moment of birth the action of sucking is natural to every human being, and so a large teatfrom a baby'sfeeding bottle can be sucked upon by the patient, to make him realize how he can take air into the mouth. A drinking straw can also be used and if the patient was a smoker, so too can he be reminded of how he drew upon a pipe or cigarette. All these are sucking by the mouth and not an intake of breath. Sep 7, 2021 at 8:12
  • You should note evening drew on (adverb); She drew on (preposition) her cigarette. -- In broad terms, "upon" (a preposition, not an adverb) is more formal in all contexts than "on". -- Thus upon cannot substitute for adverbial on
    – Greybeard
    Sep 7, 2021 at 23:44
  • 1
    On the other hand, the idiomatic form "put upon" (meaning "burdened [by or with something]") doesn't work when changed to "put on": "Don't act so put upon."
    – Sven Yargs
    May 30, 2023 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


Drew upon is best reserved for abstract resources, like "She drew upon her vast understanding of history."

  • "Draw upon a blackboard" seems common and that's certainly not abstract. I think it's because the blackboard is high up.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 28, 2023 at 9:16
  • "Draw upon a blackboard" makes perfect sense, but in my experience it is not at all common. Sep 28, 2023 at 19:09
  • I just checked this by googling. The web pages that include "Draw on a blackboard" but not "Draw upon a blackboard" are said to number 53,800. By contrast, the web pages that include "Draw upon a blackboard" but not "Draw on a blackboard" are said to number 3. Sep 29, 2023 at 22:14

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